Why DEI Still Matters in 2023
While the threat of economic uncertainty continues into this year, many businesses will be faced with difficult decisions about where to allocate their resources. In organizations where diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was viewed merely as a ‘nice to have’ check-the-box item driven by compliance requirements, DEI-focused initiatives like diversity and inclusion training and employee resource groups (ERGs) will likely be affected. While this could seem like a good idea to save time and money, maintaining a strong commitment to DEI is, in fact, a business imperative with long-term impacts that remain as important now as ever.
Why DEI Still Matters
A lot has happened over the past few years, and as we collectively work to return to, or re-establish a sense of “normal”, we cannot forget the lessons that came from the pandemic. In the workplace and in the media, much emphasis was put on racial inequality, gender-wage parity, accessibility barriers, mental health, and more. In many ways, Covid-19 was the much-needed wake-up call that made us realize that our idea of ‘normal’ was flawed. It was neither inclusive nor sustainable.
Organizations responded to this wake-up call by boldly stating their dedication to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). They created new job positions for DEI leaders, attended diversity and inclusion workshops, shared educational and supporting resources on LinkedIn and other social platforms, and created DEI implementation plans.
These were necessary actions that helped to support employees during the unprecedented times of the pandemic, but as many organizations began to return to in-office operations, they may have found themselves slipping back into old routines and drifting away from the DEI-centered lens that they once had (especially now, with the possibility of an economic recession looming).
But DEI efforts were not only relevant during the pandemic. DEI is relevant all the time. Although we are no longer having to contend with mandatory lockdowns, employees still (and will always) need work environments that are inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible for all. Creating a culture that seeks to understand and support the needs of your employees does not happen overnight and cannot be upheld without continuous effort. On the other hand, DEI efforts that have not been thoughtfully integrated throughout the organization will not produce the desired impact.
If your organization is rethinking its DEI strategy or planning on eliminating its DEI efforts altogether because it hasn't been seeing the benefits of having a DEI program in the workplace, stay tuned for Part 2 in this series, IDEA Strategizing, where we will discuss how to effectively design and implement a DEI program from start to finish.
If you want to learn more about DEI in the workplace, check out these articles on our blog:
Defining Accessibility and Digital Inclusion in the Workplace
Creating workplaces that are inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible for all is a core goal for many organizations; however, while there are some universal understandings about what inclusion, diversity, and equity are, there is a limited understanding of what accessibility means.
In the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Honourable David Onley notes that the Act never defines what accessibility means. Thus, many people, including workers in businesses, wonder, ‘what is accessibility?’. And as Kovac states, “Currently, every person can define accessibility in a different way. Therefore, some organizations believe they are accessible, while customers with a different definition of accessibility disagree.”
Without a clear definition of accessibility to anchor inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) efforts, organizations will undoubtedly face challenges when implementing accessibility strategies.
What is Accessibility? Why Does it Matter?
The Invisible Disability Project defines accessibility as “the ability to be accessed; especially in reference to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities.” And they define a disability as a “physical, mental, or emotional condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities”.  
Whereas accessibility has previously and often been associated with wheelchair access ramps and elevators, the definitions above highlight that there is much more to accessibility than blueprints or building plans. Accessibility concerns improving or increasing access to products and services for people of all ability levels.
Because not all disabilities are visible, and not everyone chooses to disclose their disabilities, understanding disabilities and barriers to accessibility is essential, not only for those who want to integrate accessibility into their DEI strategies but for those who just want to stay in business. Accessibility is law, and governments are expanding their mandates for businesses to be inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible for all. So, whether the goal is to expand its reach to clients, improve working conditions for its employees, or keep the business running, everyone benefits from improved accessibility.
What is Digital Inclusion?
Digital inclusion also referred to as e-inclusion, is the facilitation of “access to digital technologies and services to those who would otherwise not have access, regardless of age, geographical location, socio-economic backgrounds, and skills. Digital inclusion means not only access to digital tools but also the development of the skills needed to use them.”
What Can I Do to Be More Digitally Inclusive?
As the internet and information and communications technologies (ICT) become increasingly embedded in our daily lives, digital inclusion measures must be taken. In Canada, 80% of people with disabilities use the internet, 73% of all consumers include people with disabilities and their friends and family, and 71% of all customers with accessibility needs will click away from websites they find challenging to use.
To be more digitally inclusive, you must start by expanding your knowledge of digital inclusion. In addition to Accessibility Canada and the Accessible Canada Act, our Instructor-Led Training sessions are a great place to start. We also have a blog post with helpful tips to make your website more digitally inclusive. Finally, if you haven't done so, subscribe to our monthly newsletter for more content like this, delivered straight to your inbox!
 Invisible Disability Project. (n.d.) Accessibility. https://www.invisibledisabilityproject.org/words-matter.
 Invisible Disability Project. (n.d.) Disability. https://www.invisibledisabilityproject.org/words-matter#letter-d.
 Telefonica. (n.d.). What is Digital Inclusion and What are its Characteristics? https://www.telefonica.com/en/communication-room/blog/what-is-digital-inclusion-and-what-are-its-characteristics/.
 Accessibility Canada. (n.d.). Accessibility and Digital Inclusion Infographic. https://accessibilitycanada.ca/store/accessibility-digital-inclusion-infographic/.